Police chief: New London involvement in ICE chase was 'fluke'

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New London — Police Chief Peter Reichard said officers were acting within longstanding department policy when they helped Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents capture a Brazilian national who was running through the city Wednesday.

He said Sgt. Larry Keating and the city’s newest officers — Michael Jarvis and Joseph Hajj — had just finished a tour of New London Superior Court when they saw “tactically dressed” people chasing a man down the street.

Reichard said the three officers didn’t know ICE was around because the agency doesn’t alert city police to its operations, but when an officer sees an active chase, “you’re going to take some type of law enforcement action.”

“It wasn’t until after the chase that they learned it was ICE,” said Reichard, who said the officers jumped in of their own volition, not because ICE asked for help. “It was a fluke. If the officers weren’t there, we probably wouldn’t have known about (the chase) at all.”

City police union President Todd Lynch said officers would have reacted the same way for any law enforcement agency working in New London. “The men and women of the New London Police Department did their job, period,” he said. “They took an oath to do their job, and politics should not play into what they do every day."

“Our goal is to make sure not only that members of our own agency go home safely, but also that members of every other agency in our community do, too,” he said.

Reichard said police don’t participate in immigration “raids” or “sweeps” and don’t look for people with federal immigration detainers or deportation orders. He said police only detain people with immigration violations — which are civil, not criminal — if they also have active criminal warrants for their arrest.

During booking, Reichard said, local police don’t see information about a person’s immigration status or if they’re on the terrorist watch list. Agencies such as ICE and the FBI, however, do, and can ask local police to hold a person.

“They have to send a (National Crime Information Center database) teletype of what they would like us to detain someone for,” he said. “If it’s only an immigration-related hold, we don’t hold for that. The (immigrant) is allowed to make bond and walk right out of the station.”

Police said Fabricio Daelmeida-Oliveira, 33, of Bridgeport ran from the courthouse and through backyards in the Post Hill neighborhood when ICE tried to apprehend him after a Wednesday morning court appearance. Daelmeida-Oliveira, charged with exchanging slaps with an equally intoxicated girlfriend at Foxwoods Resort Casino in January, had just been accepted into a family violence education program available only to first-time offenders.

His attorney, Michael R. Hasse, said the taxpaying, talented carpenter did the right thing by showing up to court, only to be “jumped” by ICE agents as he exited the building.

ICE, with the unsolicited help of city police, ultimately caught Daelmeida-Oliveira on Brainard Street. From there, he likely went to the ICE Enforcement & Removal Operations office in the U.S. District Courthouse in Hartford, Hasse said.

The involvement of city police unnerved some in New London’s immigrant community, especially when it wasn’t clear how police became involved and at a time when President Donald Trump is pledging large-scale ICE raids across the country.

Joseph Marino, director of the Immigration Advocacy and Support Center on Washington Street, said those who are concerned should consult the "know your rights" post, at bit.ly/NLKYR on his nonprofit's website, to ensure they are given due process. 

"It's a sad day when folks complying with court orders are arrested on courtroom steps," he said.

Mayor Michael Passero said police, who are “not working for ICE,” have an obligation in such situations to assist other law enforcement agencies. “Let’s say there were no ICE agents involved and they see a guy running from the courthouse,” Passero said. “That’s suspicious, right? We would expect our cops are going to pursue him.”

That ICE agents were at the courthouse is nothing new. Using their own databases and the state judicial website, ICE agents easily can determine when someone with an immigration violation is going to be at court. Last summer, about 25 people, including former Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, stood on Broad Street to protest ICE agents who were apprehending undocumented immigrants inside state courts.

Passero said the concern now is whether undocumented immigrants, thinking police are assisting ICE, don’t go to them for help or with helpful information. “It hinders (the police's) mission if they do not have the trust of the immigrant population in the city,” he said.

In a prepared statement, Reichard said the department “hears and acknowledges the concerns and fears of our Hispanic and immigrant communities.”

“They are truly part of the fabric of our community and we want everyone to feel safe in our city,” he said. “My officers work tirelessly day-in and day-out to serve, protect and defend ALL members of our community regardless of race, ethnicity or immigration status.”

l.boyle@theday.com

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